The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation banning assault-style rifles that have been used in mass shootings, sending it to the Senate where it faces likely defeat.
By a mostly partisan vote of 217-213, Democrats narrowly won passage of the measure. The vote didn’t fully fall along party lines, as two Republicans – Chris Jacobs of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania – voted in favor of the bill, and five Democrats – Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Kurt Schrader of Oregon – voted against the bill.
“They’re easier for a teenager to get than to buy a beer,” Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett said during debate. “We’ve turned our churches, our schools, our shopping centers, our entertainment venues, almost any place into a battleground with one massacre after another,” he added.
Democrats have been trying for years to renew a federal ban on the weapon, which was first imposed in 1994 and expired in 2004.
As previously reported by FISM, despite calls from the left for more bans, research, including a government-funded study, suggests that such a ban will likely have little-to-no effect on the tragic rise in gun violence in the U.S.
The federal government’s own study on the effects of the previous two-decade ban yielded “mixed” results, in terms of reducing gun violence. Researchers commissioned by the Justice Department pointed out that, while the ban reduced the number of crimes committed with assault weapons, that decline was offset by crimes involving other types of firearms.
The researchers further noted that during the period in which the ban was in effect, gun violence had declined in the U.S. and in other countries around the world; however, they also found that it continued to fall even after the ban was lifted.
The study’s authors concluded that they “cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.” They added that, had the ban continued, incidents of gun violence were likely “to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
Republicans have resisted a ban, accusing Democrats of attacking the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants the right to “keep and bear arms.”
Democrats have argued that is not a blanket prohibition on the control of some guns and their enhancements.
Assault-style rifles are lightweight, semi-automatic weapons popular among hunters in the United States. They also are capable of causing severe damage to humans when they tear through organs, bones, and muscle in rapid fire.
“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our families, our children, our homes, our communities, and our nation,” U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said on Friday, urging the Senate to back the measure.
Republican Representative Guy Reschenthaler accused Democrats of a “never-ending attack on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”
“Once again, we’re considering legislation that would do nothing more than penalize law-abiding citizens while doing absolutely nothing about the root cause of gun violence,” he said.
Many Republicans say providing additional federal funding to treat mental illnesses would be a more effective way of reducing mass shootings.
Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, who voted against the bill told Politico last week that the legislation was part of a “death wish list” for his party. He pointed to 1994 when the GOP regained control of Congress at midterms and eventually secured the 1996 presidency following the Democrat-pushed passing of a similar bill during the Clinton administration.
“It undermines what we already did and reemphasizes to all the people in America that are not hardcore urban Democrats that our party’s out of touch,” Schrader told Politico.
One month ago, Congress approved a bipartisan bill that Biden signed into law containing modest safety measures.
It marked the first time in three decades that Congress succeeded in passing a significant gun control bill.
The most recent in a string of mass shootings with AR-15s included 10 killed and three wounded at a Buffalo, New York supermarket, 19 children and two teachers murdered at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school, and seven killed at a July 4 holiday parade in Highland Park, Illinois.
Democrats vowed, however, to keep pushing for additional controls, despite opposition from gun rights activists across the country.
Earlier this week, House Oversight Committee Democrats questioned top executives of two U.S. gunmakers – Sturm, Ruger & Co Inc RGR.N and Daniel Defense Llc – in a hearing that centered on the marketing of assault-style rifles to young men seeking to emulate soldiers on battlefields. In the hearing, the gun manufacturers argued that criminals, not guns, kill people, and passing legislation that would ban these weapons only takes away from the general public’s right to defend themselves.
The 100-member Senate is divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, who control the chamber because Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris is its ceremonial president and has the power to break tie votes.
But Senate rules require that most legislation needs the support of at least 60 senators to advance, meaning that Republicans can block a bill from even being debated.
During the June push for passage of the bipartisan bill there were not enough votes among Republicans to raise the age for buying an assault rifle to 21 from 18, much less ban the weapon.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters (additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal)